Why today's economy is working for millennials and not so much for boomers

Why today’s economy is working for millennials and not so much for boomers

Americans have many reasons to be excited when it comes to the current state of the economy.

The national unemployment rate is at a seven-year low, and the country has had several successive months of job growth across a number of different industries. According to new data released by Udemy, the leading global marketplace for learning and teaching online, 83 percent of Americans feel very or somewhat secure in their current jobs, and many are optimistic about the upward trajectory of their careers.

But the survey also revealed millennials benefit the most from today’s economy, while boomers are left behind.

The Udemy data shows that nearly 80 percent of millennials believe they’ll see a salary increase this year compared to 58 percent of boomers who believe the same. The vast majority of millennials also reported they made more money in 2014 than they did in 2013. Significantly fewer boomers (66 percent) said the same.

So what gives? Boomers are more experienced workers, which you would think would put them in a better position to thrive in an economic upswing. Here are three reasons why the reality is not so simple:

1. Millennials are forcing workplaces to cater to their preferences

Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce and companies are making concerted efforts to meet their needs. Studies show millennials seek collaborative work environments where they can receive constant feedback and mentorship, while boomers prefer a structured system where they receive feedback at predictable times.

Rather than wanting constant feedback, boomers tend to have the mindset of “give me my objectives and get out of my way.” According to a recent poll conducted by MTV, 80 percent of millennials said they want regular feedback from their managers, and 75 percent yearn for mentorship.

Additionally, millennials care about working at an organization that makes an impact. Millennials are more concerned with corporate social responsibility than any other generation, ranking issues of hunger and poverty, the environment, human rights and education as most important.

Millennials also have a lot to give back to their employers. More than 74 percent of non-millennials agree that millennials have valuable skills and insights to offer. Millennials grew up with technology that the older generations didn’t have and are used to multitasking and working on their own schedules. While new entrants to the workforce still have much to learn from older generations, they will continue to benefit from the growing economy as the workforce adapts to meet their needs.

2. Millennials dominate the sharing economy

The growing economy is giving millennials many opportunities to get creative with how they make money. According to the Udemy survey, half of all respondents said the sharing economy is a good source of income, but boomers are generally more pessimistic about it. About 27 percent of boomers think sharing economy jobs lack prestige and 24 percent think they are only for unskilled work. That’s compared to 10 percent of millennials who answered those questions in the same way.

Of the individuals who said they have earned money through the sharing economy, 76 percent are millennials compared to just 17 percent of Gen Xers and 7 percent of boomers. Not to mention, 69 percent of millennials feel the country would be better off with more self-employment, compared to just 44 percent of boomers.

Freelance workers now make up 34 percent of the workforce and that number is projected to increase by another 50 percent in the next five years. As millennials opt for more flexible careers, they will continue to benefit from the rise of the freelance economy.

3. Millennials prioritize work-life balance and it’s paying off

It’s no secret that millennials prioritize work-life balance above most everything else in the workplace. Companies have had to adjust many of their policies to create an inviting environment for younger workers. Many employers are implementing unlimited paid vacation policies and results-only work environments, where employees are only measured by their results, not the amount of time they spend in the office.

It’s been difficult for many boomers to cope with these changing policies. According to the U.S. President’s Study of Work-Life Balance, 80 percent of baby boomers report moderate to high levels of stress because they routinely sacrifice family and personal time for their employers, despite new work-life balance policies. In addition to handling the stress of senior-level positions, many boomers face health issues or care for aging family members.

Studies show that a lack of work-life balance leads to disengagement and absenteeism. While older generations viewed work-life balance as a “nice to have,” millennials view work-life balance as a “must have.” Employees who take advantage of new company policies that encourage work-life balance, most often millennials, are happier and more productive. Three in four millennials say work-life balance drives their career choices. Ultimately, this is helping millennials advance their careers and make the most of the current environment.

There are several factors that play into why millennials are outpacing older generations in the growing economy. Many of these factors have to do with how the current workplace is adapting to meet their needs and millennials’ willingness to take advantage of opportunities outside traditional 9-to-5 work. Millennials are seeing the most benefits from the booming economy, and have much to look forward to as they continue to forge ahead in their careers.

4. Boomers don’t need to get left behind.

While it’s true that times are changing, the boomer generation has much to contribute to the growing economy and today’s workplace.

Tactics to stay in the game:

  • Get fit, stay fit, and create your own work-life balance.
  • Upgrade your tech tools — phone, tablet, laptop — and be sure you can use them and all the appropriate apps.
  • Willingly and skillfully mentor the younger generations and generously impart your wealth of knowledge.